It goes to show in today’s economy how important platform is to sell a book. What are we bringing to the table? Do they perceive us as someone that is going to just hand them a book and expect them to get it sold? Or do they perceive us as a capable partner, one that is gaining visibility, expanding contacts, who has access to markets that we (and they) can use to sell books? When we are putting proposals together we tend to just give some sort of afterthought to putting comparables and market info and particularly to our own plan for marketing (platform). More and more responses that I’m getting back rejections are being based on lack of platform.
It was pointed out that more and more this is driving authors to self publishing. That can be the right answer, but only if we’ve accepted what that really means. One writer said, “If these companies not only expect the author to write the book, probably do most of the editing, submit it and then have a plan to help sell it, why not go to one of those co-op self-publishing things, if it isn’t too expensive?”
Why indeed, the stats show that most self published books sell less than a hundred copies. The author makes the lion’s share on the sales that way. The harder they work the more it sells, but even if the book is offered online or thorough a recognized distributor, somebody has to make the sale and in that case that someone is the author, period. I have a friend that has several self-published books and he makes 6 figure income from them, has for years, but his sales routine would daunt most professional salesmen. The bulk of the sales will continue to go to the companies set up with sales staffs and distribution. They are the ones who will continue to go into the bookstores and the libraries because no single individual has the structure and the ability to do that.
Major publishers want that author busy generating visibility and promotion but for the most part will count on their own sales staff and distribution channels for the bulk of the sales. They know, however, that even though they have the ability to get the books into stores and onto shelves that they are likely to be returned if that author is not out helping create a buzz so people will react to the title and try the book. The name identification of the author sells books. Nothing else is as important. People browse the bookracks looking for names they recognize and trust. Houses invest each year in a few new names to see if they have the ability to become a known quantity. To the extent that we can show them we already have a lot of name identification and have the ability to produce even more if they will help, that is what really starts making us appeal to them. They will sell far more books than the author can, but only if the author is doing their job creating name identification.
Large sales numbers are hard to get without books being in bookstores and individual authors have little chance of getting into stores without publisher support. But publishers find it almost impossible to build a name identification for an author without the authors help. Maybe it used to be that platform was much more important for a non-fiction book than for fiction, but these days all publishers want to know they are going to get that help from an author and to see some demonstration of how capable the author may be in doing it.